People of Faith: Jeff Fisher
- Thursday, January 16, 2003
Jeff Fisher has seen much success in more than 20 years with the game of football. As a college player at the University of Southern California, his team went to the Rose Bowl. As a player with the Chicago Bears, his team went to the Super Bowl, and his record for longest punt return in Bears history still stands today.
As a coach with four NFL teams, he has experienced several playoff games, and in 1999, as the Tennessee Titans' head coach, he led his team to Super Bowl XXXIV. But when you sit down and speak with Jeff and Juli Fisher you soon find that it has often been shortfalls that have had the greatest impact on their lives.
In 1999, that shortfall was just one yard. Three feet. 36 inches. So close-but far enough to keep the Titans from winning the Super Bowl. And still close enough for the couple to see that good can come through disappointment.
"The Lord poured out such blessing on us," Juli says. "In God's economy, it didn't matter who won that game."
This is not just spiritually explaining away a defeat. The Fishers have learned that sometimes the best things happen when things don't work out the way you expect.
Their life together began, naturally enough, through the game when Jeff played for the Rose Bowl-bound University of Southern California. Among the festivities surrounding the prestigious college game, both USC and Michigan participated in "The Beef Bowl" at Lawry's Restaurant-a prime rib eating competition.
As Jeff walked into the restaurant, the Tournament of Roses court was already seated. He sat next to one of the princesses, Juli, who would eventually be his wife. And so they began their life together, which now includes three children-Brandon 15), Tara(13) and Trent(10).
After four seasons with the Chicago Bears, an ankle injury ended Jeff's playing career. But this setback as a player turned into an opportunity for a transition to coaching. In 1986 he joined his former coach, Buddy Ryan, with the Philadelphia Eagles. After five years with the Eagles and achieving much success on defense, Jeff was regarded as one of the great young defensive minds in the NFL.
In 1991, Jeff headed west to be reunited with his college coach, John Robinson, as defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams. Jeff and Juli were going "home" to California. They bought Juli's "dream house" and, as always, location was crucial. "My sister was 1.3 miles away," Juli says. "My mom was around the corner. Jeff's family was 25 minutes away. Everything was wonderful. "
Then, after just 10 months, Jeff was let go as the team's defensive coordinator. He had several significant opportunities with other NFL teams, but opted for a lesser role as secondary coach with the San Francisco 49ers to be a part of that successful organization and to learn a different defensive system. But God had other learning experiences in mind-for both of them.
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